Alan Ross Raphael, commonly known as Ross is one of our longest serving life members, but who is he really?  

Ross set out with the intention of having his own business.  He quickly went from one truck for deliveries to a total of 20 delivery trucks and in the process, gave employment to 14 of our umpires along the way. If it had not been for Ross selling the business to Mayne Nicholas back in the 70’s, for a handsome sum, there was the possibility of Ross’ company known as Raphael Cleaning & Transport, being as big as Lindsay Fox, and that’s saying something.   

Born on the 25th March 1930 to Phillip & Lidia Alice Raphael at 28 Main Street Coburg, Ross was the fourth child.  He had two sisters Betty and Nellie and a brother Philip.  He attended Coburg Primary School where he excelled at most subjects, especially mathematics, so much so that he mapped out his career path wanting to become an accountant. Ross moved to Moreland Central School for two years and Coburg High School was his next port of call.

A keen sportsman, Ross was a member of the Carlton under 17 football team, but at high school, Ross made every effort to play in the football team but when the school captain came to him and stated that he thought he was a touch small, Ross decided it was time to run the boundary.  On the weekends, he officiated with the Northern Metropolitan Football League, first on the boundary, then as a field umpire. That league has now folded. During the summer months, he tried his hand at cricket without much success. 

Ross started his working career with Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) at Deer Park, but shortly afterwards moved to The Herald & Weekly Times as their Accounts Manager.  Whilst working for both employers, Ross was attending night school to become a qualified Accountant.  Once he passed his accreditation, he left the Herald to start his own cleaning business.  However, this move proved to be a failure as it was difficult to obtain work just after the war, so Ross decided to venture out and buy a truck and take on deliveries. This turned out to be very profitable and he built up the business very quickly. 

Meanwhile in 1952 whilst on the Reserve Grade list Ross was appointed to an Under 19’s game, North Melbourne v. Geelong at Arden Street. The ground was filled to capacity with close to 15,000 people crammed into the small Arden Street ground. This wasn’t unusual at the time, as the under 19’s played the curtain raiser to the Seniors in 1952. Harry Beitzel had the main game, but it had been mentioned that the observers had turned up to watch Ross perform.     

In 1953 Ross was promoted onto the senior list of umpires. As his business grew, Ross required workers and with many umpires out of work it was a golden opportunity for the boys to obtain employment. Now this may sound funny, but Ross the owner of the company, was still driving his truck, in fact he was the only driver to wear a tie as he completed his deliveries. Ross had the run from Melbourne to Seymour, then out to the Army Barracks at Puckapunyal. It was a round trip of well over 100 kilometres.

It was during this time that Ross decided to become a member of the Freemason’s Lodge.  The umpires formed ‘The Lodge of Decision,’ many umpires joined and subsequently became members of the Freemasons.  

The VFL decided that because of his great skills as an organiser it would be a great idea to have Ross in charge of the Royal Park, Tuesday/Thursday training group, a position he kept until his retirement.  

I’m reliably informed that Ross had a hobby of making money. During a typical week Ross would run his company, umpire on the weekends, as well as mid-week, sometimes twice mid-week, whilst also taking charge of the training group each Tuesday and Thursday.  It makes me feel exhausted writing this paragraph.

In 1963 Ross was awarded Life Membership of the VFLUA.  He continued umpiring until his retirement in 1968, His last match was on the 7th September in the Ovens and Murray League, between Wangaratta Rovers and Benalla at Wangaratta.

Ross’ record speaks for itself, 482 appointments in 20 years on the list, and that figure does not include mid-week games with the Tramways.  He umpired 4 VFL Reserve Grade Games, 7 VCFL grand finals, and a host of many other appointments including Tasmania.

In November of 1968, Ross was approached by the VFA to join the umpires board as an observer/ Boardman and at the same time applied and was accepted as the umpire’s advisor in the Northern Metropolitan Football League, where he would still umpire when the occasion arose, all this whilst still operating his trucking business which was booming. In fact, the business was going so well that in 1980, Mayne Nicholas offered Ross a handsome sum to buy his business, a figure that Ross could not refuse and to show his appreciation to his workers, he offered each member a handy some of $2500, which in 1980 was HUGE dosh.

Ross immediately applied and was accepted as Financial Officer with the Hospital and Charities Commission, a position where he was responsible for a budget of over 800 million dollars.

In 1979 Ross ended his advising in the Northern Metropolitan League, and upon his retirement the League awarded Ross life membership of both the League and the Umpires Association.  Having extra time now allowed Ross to concentrate on his newly appointed position as Chairman / Secretary of the VFA Umpires Board, as well as his position with the Hospital and Charities Commission.       

In 1982 the Hospital and Charities Commission, whilst doing their normal health checks, discovered Ross’ eyesight was failing and offered him a substantial pension which he accepted and retired.

Ross’ failing eyesight did not prevent him from performing his duties as Chairman / Secretary of the VFA Umpires Board and in 1987 Ross was awarded Life membership of the Victorian Football Association.  At the end of the 1989 season Ross took off on a holiday but while away his career as Chairman / Secretary of the Umpires Board come to an end as the merger of the then VFL and the VFA umpires occurred. When Ross arrived back from his holiday, AFL umpires’ manager, Bill Deller OAM, called Ross in for a talk on his future, but failing eyesight meant it would be impossible for Ross to carry out the duty as an observer, so he retired.

It was time to travel.  Ross and his sister took off around the world.  Not once but several times over the coming years until 2010 after living in the same house in Coburg for 80 years, they moved to Bentleigh and into a retirement village. Ross who was a fitness fanatic, would run 13 kilometres a day and think nothing of it, until three years ago he was struck by a vehicle and this put an end to his running.  He lost his sister and his eyesight was diminishing at a rapid rate, so for recreation he now spends 50 hours a week with the help of Vision Australia using talking books, having now read over 652 titles.

Ross never married.  He stated that whilst running a transport company he never found the time, although he tells me that recently he has had three proposals of marriage all of which he declined. He loves talking about football and gets excited about donating to charitable organizations.

Today Ross is totally blind and has hearing difficulties but still attends as many umpire functions as possible.   All of which is possible due to the wonderful help he receives from our life member Ron Bailey; the co-ordinator of the X-Men support program.

What speaks volume of the man, is that to write this article I never once sat and interviewed Ross.   I spoke to Ron Bailey and David Flegg and picked up much of Ross’ life story while talking with him at umpire functions.  One thing is for sure, Ross is an umpires man through and through and will continue to be for many years to come, we hope.

Ross’ umpiring statistics:

482 VFL and VFLRG appointments;   

4 VFL 2nds  

7 VCFL Grand Finals (Northern Riverina; Farrer; Tyrell; Northern Districts; Upper Murray; North Central & Kowree Naracourte.);      

2 Inter-league games (South Port v.Tatiara 1961 and Kowree Narracoorte v. Mid-South East);  

27 VCFL Finals (12 – 1st semi’s, 6 – 2nd Semi’s and 9 Preliminary);            

5 Metropolitan League.

*These figures do not include the many Mid-week games for the Tramways etc.

Article written by: AFLUA Life Member, Graeme “Wizzer” Fellows


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